In an unprecedented year for elections, false information is one of the major threats that people around the world will face according to experts surveyed for the World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Risk Report.
In the chart below, Statista’s Anna Fleck shows the varying degrees to which misinformation and disinformation are rated to be problems for a selection of analyzed countries in the next two years, based on a ranking of 34 economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological risks.
Disinformation is defined as situations where the author has purposefully sought to mislead their audience.
Misinformation describes information which is spread out of genuine belief, but can be just as harmful – like is sometimes the case with conspiracy theories.
This data is based on 1,490 expert opinions across academia, business, government, the international community and civil society, with a survey collected Sep. 4 – Oct. 9, 2023.
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India is the country where the risk of disinformation and misinformation was ranked highest. Out of all risks, misinformation and disinformation was most frequently selected as the number one risk for the country by the experts, coming before infectious diseases, illicit economic activity, inequality (wealth, income) and labor shortages. The South Asian nation’s next general election is expected to be held between April and May 2024 in a country of some 1.4 billion people.
Fake news had allegedly been rife in India’s 2019 election, with Vice reporting how parties had “weaponized the platforms [of Whatsapp and Facebook] to spread incendiary messages to supporters, heightening fears that online anger could spill over into real-world violence.” More recently, misinformation also became an issue during the Covid-19 pandemic in India, again via WhatsApp.
Other countries facing a high risk of the impacts of misinformation and disinformation are El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Romania, Ireland, Czechia, the United States, Sierra Leone, France and Finland, all with the threat considered to be one of the 4th-6th most dangerous risks facing the country out of 34 in the coming two years.
In the United Kingdom, misinformation/disinformation is in rank 11 of the perceived threats.
WEF analysts conclude:
“The presence of misinformation and disinformation in these electoral processes could seriously destabilize the real and perceived legitimacy of newly elected governments, risking political unrest, violence and terrorism, and a longer-term erosion of democratic processes.”
Be afraid America, very afraid… and tune in to your friendly local government propaganda provider to know how (and what) to feel about it